Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughPositives and negatives of video referees in football - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Positives and negatives of video referees in football - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Positives and negatives of video referees in football

We are about to witness a major change in the Premier League soon and I am not referring to David Moyes taking his seat on the Manchester United bench. Technology is finally about to be embraced and referees will get help with goal line decisions by a fantastic system called HawkEye. Should we now look at other areas where technology could assist? Television replays could prove beneficial and employing a video referee to oversee events such as debatable offside calls and fouls off the ball could help maintain consistency for all teams. Is this the road that football should take? 


In order to make an assessment as to the suitability of using a video referee we need to consider the potential impact that this could have on the game and how it would change things for better or worse.

No longer will we suffer from the inconsistency in decisions that managers and fans so often complain about. It wouldn’t matter whether Howard Webb or Mark Clattenburg referees the game, crucial moments would no longer depend on whether the referee is in the correct position or not to judge an incident. This would include penalty decisions, whether a player is offside or not, the seriousness of a foul and anything that is caught on camera but missed by the referee and other officials.

The benefit of being able to watch a replay of a bad tackle or foul is that we get to see it in slow motion and from numerous angles, to determine whether it was intentional and how dangerous it actually was. Often, the momentum of a player sliding in to win the ball can knock an opponent to the floor, without actually harming him. At normal speed though this can sometimes be misinterpreted as a dangerous tackle and referees have sent players off by declaring that they weren’t in control of their body at the point of impact. A video referee could assist by watching a replay and advising the referee whether the tackle was fair or not and what type of punishment, if any, should be delivered.

Also, moments where an attacking player has scored a goal from an offside position could be viewed by the video ref and a decision made quickly. Offside calls can often be extremely close and difficult for the human eye to judge with just one viewing. Sometimes getting these decisions wrong can have a huge impact on a match or tournament and spoil the game.

Football is a fast, free-flowing game that doesn’t suffer from the interruptions that characterise many other sports. Adding a video referee could delay the game and cause it to become very fragmented, with decisions required so regularly that it would be almost impossible to gain any kind of rhythm to the play. 

Also, there is a huge problem regarding how this system would work with anything other than off the ball incidents. For example, if the referee didn’t think a player was offside and allowed the action to continue then there is a possibility that a goal could be scored soon after. However, if the video referee watches a replay of the moment in question and discovers that the attacker was actually offside, does the referee then go and inform the players that the goal doesn’t stand and that they need to go back to the offside? 

Watching a replay is also time consuming and so much could happen on the football pitch in that time that it would be impossible for a video ref to keep up with play. A video referee will still have to subjectively decide on incidents based on his interpretation of the laws of the game. Fouls would be the most difficult aspect to standardise because there is no black and white rule. Certain video refs might be quite harsh with any kind of contact, whereas others may feel that it is acceptable up to a point. How do you draw the line and decide?

In my opinion, video referees should only be used to deal with off the ball incidents missed by the other officials. Retrospective punishment does occur at the moment, but only after a game has concluded and usually in the form of a fine and a ban for the player in question. This is not the same as a video referee catching a player throwing a punch, for example, and informing the referee who can send him off straight away. This could have a huge impact on the outcome of a match and the player would still receive his fine and ban anyway.

For anything else it seems that there would be too many stoppages, too many occasions where the referee is overruled, and still a subjective basis to lots of decisions. Goal line technology is a good idea but video referees could ruin the dynamic of football entirely.

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